Science for Agriculture and Environmental Policy


Government policies at the local, state, and national level determine and regulate activities that range from local farmers markets to US membership in the Paris Climate Agreement. Science can and should play a critical role in developing policy. This class focuses on the biological science behind policies for climate change and agricultural practice, as well as the role of various organizations in providing science for policy. Now is a particularly interesting time for science-based policy with the election of a new US President and the elevation of the President's science advisor to Cabinet level. The class is divided into 3 parts. First we review how policy is developed and how various agencies and actors affect policy. The next section looks at biological topics that have policy implications. These case studies are presented by expert speakers who have had experience in various science-related roles in the federal government, foundations, professional associations, advisory organizations, and scientific publications. Finally, students conduct individual research projects on a science topic that affects current legislative efforts, either state or national. Students investigate the basic science of their chosen topic and how this could affect proposed legislation. As part of the research project, students give a class presentation, lead a class discussion and write a term paper on the foundational biological science. The goals of this class are: (1) to develop an understanding of how science is used to develop policy by examining case studies presented by experts, and (2) to critique a proposed science-based policy either at the state or federal level.
Course Attributes: FA NSM; BU SCI; AR NSM; AS NSM